Australian agriculture is broad ranging from extensive pastoral and cropping activities to intensive livestock and horticultural production. While it no longer contributes a large share to gross domestic product - averaging around 2.5% over the last five years - Australian agriculture utilises a large proportion of natural resources, including 54% of Australia's land area. In 2005, agriculture accounted for about 65% of water use but due to continuing scarcity of water, Australia's agricultural water use fell 27% in 2006-07 and a further 18% in 2007-08.
Australia's agricultural businesses are mainly engaged in either beef cattle farming, dairy cattle farming, sheep farming, grain growing, or a mixture of two or more of these activities. The wet summer conditions of northern Australia are suited to beef cattle grazing in inland areas and the growing of sugar and tropical fruits in coastal areas while drier summer conditions in the south favour dryland cereal farming, sheep grazing and dairy cattle (in the higher rainfall areas), as well as beef cattle farming. In recent times, the most valuable commodities produced by Australian farmers have been beef and veal, wheat, milk, vegetables, fruit and nuts, and wool.
Much of this produce is exported, with Australian wool, beef, wheat, and dairy products contributing significantly to global markets. Australia is also an important source of cotton and sugar. The main customers for exports of agricultural commodities include Japan, the United States of America, China, the Republic of (South) Korea, Indonesia and the Middle East.
In this chapter, the major source of statistics for land use, water use, commodity production and livestock numbers is the 2007-08 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) and related supplementary collections (i.e. Apples and Pears, Vineyards, and Vegetable Collections), conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Information relating to agricultural finance is obtained from the annual Australian Agricultural and Grazing Industries Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
The chapter contains the article Biodiversity on the farm in recognition of 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity.